- Ability to ride a bicycle
- Full protective attire
- Over the ankle footwear (not high top converse; faux leather “fashion boots” are ok as long as they cover your ankle). Flat heel preferred so you don’t get stuck on the peg.
- Long non-flare denim pants (like slim cut jeans or Dickies work pants; no jeggings or leggings)
- Full fingered gloves, preferably leather (construction work gloves are acceptable)
- Depending on your state and age, a Driver’s license or motorcycle permit
MY extra prerequisites:
- Ability to operate a manual transmission vehicle. Three out of the four women in my class knew how to drive stick, and they performed better throughout the course in terms of understanding why you need to shift, what a clutch is, the friction zone, etc.
- Experience riding passenger. This gets you familiar with leaning on the bike, the sound and power of the bike, and general experience that makes it easier to learn because you sort of know what to expect.
Day 1: Classroom
- My class was located in the industrial Hayward, CA area and lasted about 3.5 hours, with a test at the end. You get a practice booklet and usually a video coincides with the material, but the TV was not working in our classroom at the time.
- The class covers importance and specifics of gear, lane positioning, basic traffic rules for motorcycles, accident prevention, etc. You do go over the basic parts of a motorcycle (clutch, throttle, brakes, etc.) but the gist behind a manual transmission engine or when to shift or understanding rpm’s is not covered.
- Depending on the teaching style, you are broken up into small groups and cover a small section of the booklet and then present what you learned to the class. A practice quiz goes along with the booklet that you fill out in groups, or in our case as a class as we were flying through the material.
- The test at the end determines if you continue on to the riding portion of the class in the subsequent two days. It is multiple choice and has the same style/phrasing of questions that were in the practice quiz. If you pay attention to during the class you will have no problem passing the test. In retrospect, the test is easier than the DMV written test I took after I passed the course to obtain my M1 license.
Day 2: Riding
Note: Be on time! Bring extra gear if you are unsure if yours is appropriate! I saw 1 guy get turned down in the morning class because of mesh material on his boots and luckily was able to return in the afternoon class with proper boots. There are limited spaces in the classes so make sure you come prepared with extra gear.
- The Rider Coaches started off the afternoon by checking your gear. Loaner helmets are provided if you don’t have your own. Then they pair you with your 250cc bike depending on how much experience you have riding – ex. pro’s get the street bikes, intermediate’s get the naked bikes, and beginners like me get cruisers (Honda Rebels).
- These next 20 minutes go by pretty quickly so pay attention! You learn how to turn on/off your motorcycle, throttle control, point to every aspect of the bike (RBrake, FBrake, starter, etc.), and then you walk with your bike. You shift to first and while holding the clutch, walk the bike down a straight line, picking up your feet as you release the clutch, at your own pace. You do this for about 20 minutes and then you take a break.
- Then you learn how to emergency stop, shift to neutral, and ride at slow speeds using your RBrake and clutch. You’re following your other classmates in a large circle and everyone is going at a slow speed.
Towards the end of the day I was getting frustrated because I was learning so much and we kept moving forward in the program at a fast pace. I felt like I was taking in so much information but not practicing it to perfection. Not only that, but my right thumb kept accidentally accelerating as I would reach for the FBrake. We ended the class and I was sure I was going to drop it. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed I didn’t think I would be able to keep riding.
Day 3: More Riding
- You start off learning how to shift to 2nd, weaving, overcoming obstacles on the road, figure 8 turn, and continue practicing emergency stopping. After your break you decide as a class what specific exercise you want to practice on that will be in your test (we chose the figure 8 and emergency stopping).
- The test is point based and is held the last hour of the class. Each person takes his/her turn in 4 exercises (emergency stopping, shifting to second and going into a turn, weaving, and figure 8). I think only 1 person did not pass the course because he ran over a cone. A girl even dropped her bike during the practice exercises and still passed.
I was much more comfortable riding after this day because I felt like what we were doing was practicing over and over and over again and not really learning anything new. I would personally extend the length of day 2 or even add in a 4th day so that it doesn’t feel as rushed for inexperienced riders.
- After passing the riding portion of the test, you receive a MSF course completion card (great for insurance discounts!) and a DL44 form you take to the DMV that counts as your Riding test. At the DMV all that is left is to take the written test (which I struggled with and looked up examples on YouTube that came in handy). The DMV Written test is more focused on rules of the road. Pay the fee, take your picture, and you’re new M1 license gets sent in the mail.
All in all, the MSF rider course prepares you for riding in a parking lot, with your M1 license.